Artist Brian O’Doherty to receive Freedom of Roscommon

Ballaghaderren-born Booker-shortlisted author best known at home as Patrick Ireland

The Freedom of Roscommon is to be conferred on artist, author, doctor, art critic and academic Brian O'Doherty (89) who grew up in Ballaghaderreen. He has lived in New York City for more than 50 years.

The decision to award him the honour was made at a meeting of Roscommon County Council on Monday. A letter had been sent to Roscommon County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Orla Leyden last October asking that the freedom of the county be conferred on the Booker-shortlisted author.

In an interview with The Irish Times the previous month, O'Doherty said: "Ireland does not appreciate its foreign achievers. It's kind of an insult if you achieve. You're supposed to fail and then you'll be adopted."

Born in Ballaghaderreen in 1928 he studied medicine at UCD, Cambridge, and Harvard before moving to New York where he devoted himself to the visual arts.


In the 1960s, he was arts critic for the New York Times but today his own works are on display in New York's Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pompidou in Paris, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) and the Hugh Lane in Dublin.

He is probably more widely known in this country as Patrick Ireland. In 1972, at Dublin's Project Arts Centre he was reborn as "Patrick Ireland" in protest at the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry that year.

Dressed in white he was doused in green and orange pigment by fellow artists Robert Ballagh and Brian King before an audience of 30 invited witnesses.

In 2008, given the peace process, he ceremoniously buried Patrick Ireland at Imma in Dublin and resumed his birth name.

A letter detailing Mr O'Doherty's many achievements was sent to Cllr Leyden asking that he be granted the Freedom of Roscommon in recognition of his many achievements. It is signed by artist Robert Ballagh, academic Prof Luke Gibbons, head of collections at Imma Christina Kennedy, Trinity College art historian Dr Brenda Moore McCann, and Michael O'Dea of Rathmines College.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times